The pandemic has stripped millions of work, community, and hope. As local governments extend quarantine orders, urbanites like me are starting to wonder: what is the point of city life?
This week marks just over two months since most states instituted shelter-in-place orders to contain COVID-19, and with this milestone came an apparent turn in the tide of public opinion—or at least, public behavior—on social distancing.
Even as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and one of President Trump’s most prominent pandemic advisors, warned against rolling back lockdown orders in his testimony to Congress on May 12, the return of warmer weather combined with “quarantine fatigue” compelled more and more people to return to pre-pandemic activities.
A recent study from Ipsos reported that since May a full third of Americans have visited friends or relatives, up from 19 percent in April. Whereas more than half of Americans (55 percent) reported “self-quarantining” last month, those numbers slid to 36 percent. Surveys from Kantar further revealed that as the spread of coronavirus slows, frustration has overtaken worry as Americans’ prevailing sentiment, and jobs have replaced health as the primary concern.
Regardless of where the masses lie on lockdowns, the decision to re-open local economies technically rests with government officials. While some are more aggressive in their re-opening strategy, such as Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, many pro-quarantine politicians still err on the side of caution. Take Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who said, “it is still far too early to take our foot off the brake,” and “[every] one of us must continue physical distancing” to save lives.
But if local leaders prolong shelter-in-place rules with no end in sight, the ruinous social and economic consequences for individuals will inevitably harm American cities as suffering residents like me face little choice but to skip town in search of greener pastures.
Mitch Hall – The Federalist – May 18, 2020.